We all reach for a sleep aid occasionally, but new FDA warnings about the potential hazards of popular insomnia meds have been giving us pause. We turned to sleep doctor Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., for four side-effect-free tricks that’ll help us drift off with ease faster and deeper than ever before — read on for his low-key tips.
1. Open your curtains wide
“One of the best ways to keep your body clock in sync, so you’re alert during the day and sleepy at night, is to expose yourself to natural light in the morning”, states Power of When ($13.69, Amazon) author Breus. Indeed, at least 10 different studies suggest that getting a five-minute blast of morning sun by stepping outside or simply opening the curtains wide can help you fall asleep 20 minutes faster each night and halve your risk of early-morning wake-ups.
2. Take a Warm Bath Before Bed
Want to be snoozing soundly by 11 p.m.? Take a warm shower or bath at 10 p.m.. That’s the word from UCLA researchers, who say a pre-bedtime spike in skin temperature prods the brain to release sleep-inducing melatonin, helping you drift off 55 percent faster — often from the very first night. Advises Breus, “Just pick a temperature that feels comfortably warm to you.”
3. Snack on Kiwis
Fall kiwis harvested in California are a sleep-deepening superhero! According to Canadian researchers, enjoying two sweet, tart kiwis each evening can help you sleep 54 percent more deeply. Kiwis are rich in serotonin, explains Breus, and this calming, mood-steadying hormone helps the entire central nervous system relax.
4. Listen to Pink Noise
If barking dogs or even the blowing wind is disruptive to your sleep, blanketing your bedroom with pink noise could cut your middle of the night wake-ups by 67 percent, say scientists at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. Unlike white noise, which sounds like static and can be harsh, pink noise is soothing and steady, like rainfall. To get the benefits, Breus recommends downloading a free app (try SimplyNoise for iPhones and Androids) that features a timer, so the sound doesn’t play all night.
Note: Speak with your doctor before changing your prescription sleep aid.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
We write about products we think our readers will like. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the supplier.